Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was a Colombian drug trafficker who eventually controlled over 80 percent of the cocaine shipped to the United States, earning him the rank of one of Forbes Magazine’s 10 wealthiest people in the world at that time. Escobar’s ambition and ruthlessness made him one of the wealthiest, most powerful and most violent criminals of all time.
Escobar entered the cocaine trade in the early 1970s, collaborating with other criminals to form the infamous Medellin Cartel (cartel de medellin), which later became his. He earned popularity by sponsoring charity projects, soccer clubs and other social events, but later, terror campaigns that resulted in the murder of thousands who turned public opinion against him. He was killed by Colombian police in 1993 followed by an ambush.
Pablo Escobar was born on December 1, 1949 in the Colombian city of Rionegro, Antioquia. His family later moved to the suburb of Envigado. Escobar came from modest family background. His father worked as a farmer while his mother was a schoolteacher. From an early age, Escobar packed a unique drive and ambition to raise himself up from his modest beginnings.
Escobar got his criminal start as a street thief, stealing cars before moving into the good smuggling business. Escobar’s early prominence came during the “Marlboro Wars,” in which he played an important role in the control of Colombia’s smuggled cigarette market. This episode proved to be a valuable training ground for the future drug cartel kingship.
It wasn’t by pure chance or coincidence that Colombia came to dominate the cocaine trade off the west. Beginning in the early 1970s, the country became a prime smuggling ground for marijuana. But as the cocaine market stood it’s ground, Colombia’s geographical location appeared to be its biggest asset. Situated at the northern tip of South America between the coca cultivation centers of Peru and Bolivia, the country came to dominate the global cocaine trade, the biggest market for being the drug, just a short trip to the north.
Escobar planned quickly and efficiently to grab control of the cocaine trade. In 1975, Medellin drug trafficker Fabio Restrepo was murdered where his killing, it’s believed, came at the orders of Escobar, who immediately seized power and expanded Restrepo’s operation into something the world had never seen before. Under Escobar’s leadership, large amounts of coca paste were purchased in Bolivia and Peru, processed, and brought to America, marking his “big break in business”.
In 1982 Escobar was elected as an alternate member of Colombia’s federal Congress. But the sources of his wealth did not stay hidden, and two years after his election he was forced to resign from the post. The justice minister who had revealed Escobar’s notorious background was later murdered, marking the beginning of Escobar’s terror reign. Pablo Escobar was responsible for the killing of at least thousands of people, including politicians, civil servants, journalists and mostly ordinary citizens. When he realized that he had no chance of becoming Colombia’s president, and with the United States pushing for his capture and execution, Escobar unleashed his fury on his enemies to forcefully influence Colombian politics. His target was a no- extradition clause and amnesty for drug barons in exchange for giving up the trade. Escobar’s terror campaign ceased the lives of three Colombian presidential candidates, an attorney general, numerous of judges and more than 1,000 police officers. In addition, Escobar was assumed as the mastermind behind the bombing of a Colombian jetliner in 1989 that killed more than 100 civil people. Escobar’s terror eventually turned public opinion against him and caused a breakup within the drug traffickers.
In June 1991, Escobar surrendered to the Colombian government of President with the consent of lifting his sentences and being allowed to build his own luxury prison called “La Catedral,” which was guarded by men he handpicked from among his employees. The prison lived up to its name and came completely lavish, with a casino, a spa and a nightclub.
Shortly before his death, Escobar’s family had unsuccessfully sought cover in Germany and eventually found refuge in a hotel in Bogota. Pablo Escobar was killed by Colombian law enforcement on December 2, 1993.
Pablo Escobar’s death accelerated the downfall of the Medellin Cartel and Colombia’s central role in the global cocaine trade. His passing was celebrated by the country’s government and other parts of the world. His family was placed under severe police protection, where later the wife and two children changed their names and moved to US.
Yet, many Colombians mourned his death. More than 25,000 people turned out for Escobar’s burial. “He built houses and cared about the poor,” one civil person stated at Escobar’s funeral in a story reported by The New York Times. “In the future, people will go to his tomb to pray, the way they would to a saint.”